Kitchen Basics: How to Use Parchment Paper

by moderndomestic on April 14, 2009

Bonnie Doon Oaties - Empty Cookie Sheets

Pans lined with parchment paper.

Photo via flickr, by phil_g under the creative commons license.

I used to think that parchment paper was snooty. Just the word “parchment” sounds refined and gourmet – as though parchment paper was a snobbish cousin to the more down-home wax paper. But then I started using parchment paper, and I came to love it for what it was – a multipurpose workhorse of the kitchen.

Parchment paper is brown and heavy nonstick paper; it’s like wax paper but without the wax coating. You can use it for many kitchen tasks, although I mostly use it for baking:

  • Lining cookie sheets. This is the main way that I use parchment paper – it’s the perfect nonstick coating for cookie sheets. The dark coating on my nonstick cookie sheets conducts too much heat and burns my cookies, so I switched to using AirBake cookie sheets and lining them with parchment paper instead. The parchment paper also makes for easy transfer to a cooling rack – just slide the entire sheet of parchment onto the rack. This is especially helpful for delicate cookies, like tuiles or gingerbread, which can break easily if you try to lift them off with a spatula.
  • Lining cake pans: lining the bottom of your cake pan with parchment paper also ensures that your cake will flip out of the pan perfectly, every time. To make a parchment circle to line the bottom of a cake pan, place your pan on the parchment paper, outline with a pencil, and cut out the circle slightly inside the pencil line. You can also use parchment to line loaf pans, or to make a collar for a souffle dish.
  • Pastry bags: okay, so I haven’t actually used parchment to make a frosting piping bag, but it’s a classic technique that I should probably master some day. Detailed instructions on making a parchment piping bag are available here.
  • Piping surface: when you are making delicate frosting figures that you intend to transfer onto a cake, you can initially pipe them onto parchment paper. I’ve only done this a couple of times, given that my cake decorating is more down-home, but it was extremely helpful You can also use parchment paper in this manner for making chocolate decorations.
  • Rolling out pie dough: for those of you who have a hard time rolling out pie dough, you can lessen the pain by rolling the dough between two sheets of floured parchment paper. The rolling pin won’t stick to the parchment, allowing you to roll the dough more thinly and evenly than you would otherwise. It also makes it easier to transfer the dough to the pie pan.
  • Fish en papillout: cooking fish in parchment paper in is a classic French technique, and one I love to use when we make fish (which isn’t very often, because the fish one gets in DC is of dubious quality). For recipes, check out Martha Stewart’s guide to fish en papillout.

Any other uses that I left out?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Alice April 14, 2009 at 4:02 pm

I always roll pie crusts out between two pieces of wax paper. Do you know if there’s a benefit to using parchment over wax?

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moderndomestic April 14, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Not that I know of – I think wax and parchment paper are interchangeable in this respect. I never buy wax paper and always have parchment paper on hand, so I use parchment for pie crust rolling, but that’s a personal preference.

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Rebecca April 15, 2009 at 8:47 am

This is very helpful. I’ll give it a try. It’ll be blueberry pie season before we know it.

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moderndomestic April 15, 2009 at 10:43 am

Nice! I have tried to make blueberry pie a couple of times, but Wonk insisted that my efforts didn’t live up to his mother’s. So I must continue the quest.

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Bonnie April 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Parchment paper is great for storing cheese. When I get it home from the store I take the plastic wrap off, replace it with parchment and put it in a baggie in the fridge. The cheese is so happy it can breath! Since I’m a Virgo, I also cut the name of the cheese off the label and slip it into the bag so I can tell one from the other.

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moderndomestic April 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Oh my goodness, Mom, you are so much more organized than me! I try to keep things organized but my kitchen is just nothing like yours.

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Joellen April 22, 2009 at 1:06 pm

This is great. I started using it over the holidays and I can officially say that I love parchment paper. Thanks for the tips on how to use it!

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moderndomestic April 23, 2009 at 9:54 am

Parchment is the best! Glad this was helpful.

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